«by Telling the Truth by Brad Blanton, Ph.D. Copyright © 1994, 1996, 2003 by Brad Blanton All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced ...»
How to Transform Your Life
by Telling the Truth
Brad Blanton, Ph.D.
Copyright © 1994, 1996, 2003 by Brad Blanton
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system,
without the written permission of the Publisher, except where
permitted by law.
Sparrowhawk Publications Stanley, Virginia Text and Cover Design by Victoria Valentine Printed by United Graphics, Inc.
Printed in the United States of America Published simultaneously in Canada January 2005 ISBN: 0-9706938-4-2 Dedicated to my Clients — Past, Present & Future “Life is a game in which the rules change as the game progresses, and you have to know where you are in the game to know what rules to play by. Furthermore, you can’t ever be certain where you are in the game, and the rules don’t always apply.” — Brad Blanton #50044 (i-286) Cx 2/18/05 7:43 AM Page vi Introduction I am sixty-four years old. I have been a psycho-therapist in Washington, D.C., for 30 years. People come to my office and pay me money to pay attention to them and do what I can to help out. I have some skill in helping people find ways to make
their lives work. This is what I have learned:
We all lie like hell. It wears us out. It is the major source of all human stress. Lying kills people.
The kind of lying that is most deadly is withholding, or keeping back information from someone we think would be affected by it. Psychological illness of the severest kind is the result of this kind of lying. Psychological healing is possible only with the freedom that comes from not hiding anymore.
Keeping secrets and hiding from other people is a trap.
Adolescents spend most of their time playing this hide-and-seek game. The better you are at getting by with playing hide-and seek during adolescence, the harder it is to grow up. “Important” secrets and all the plotting and cogitation that go with them are all bullshit.
The mind is a jail built out of bullshit. This book tells how the bullshit jail of the mind gets built and how to escape.
This is a “how to” book on freedom. Withholding from other people, not telling them about what we feel or think, keeps us locked in the jail.
The longer we remain in that jail, the quicker we decline. We either escape, or we go dead. The way out is to get good at telling the truth.
My clients are mostly people in the 20- to 65-year age range who are depressed, anxious, angry, burnt out, or a combination thereof. I work with government employees, lawyers, business people, media professionals, and other overgrown adolescents with super-critical minds who can’t stop judging and criticizing themselves and moralizing to other people. I work to relieve their suffering, primarilythe suffering of deadness. Deadness is a low-intensity form of suffering. It is the result of staying on guard against imagined greater dangers.
The greater dangers we imagine are based on memories of how we have been hurt before. Many of us learned as children that being fully alive was bad and you got hurt for it, so we deadened ourselves: partly as a defense against the big people, and partly to spite them. Deadening ourselves was our way of hiding that we were alive in improper ways, and the only thing to do was to keep it a secret.
The path we must follow to get over the suffering of deadness leads, initially, into greater suffering. For example, if you have deadened yourself for a long time to keep from experiencing anger, getting very angry will feel worse than deadness. But it’s only your willingness to feel worse that will allow you to feel better. Trying to remain carefully kept and avoid further pain, embarrass-ment and difficulty is normal.
Normality is the key to avoiding change and continuing to suffer. People who want to be normal are often proud of it and victims to the ideal of normality: dead-suffering, death dealing normality. Sigmund Freud once said that psychoanalysis was to help people get from intense suffering to common unhappiness. I don’t think we have to settle for that. I help people focus their attention and muster their courage for the journey into previously avoided suffering, and then beyond to a truly abnormal life. Facing what one has previously avoided results in intense emotion and then a breakthrough into overflowing creativity. That overflowing creativity is the source of power for changing or re-shaping our lives.
I work like a body-shop mechanic works to fix a bent fender. When, how, and particularly why an accident occurred doesn’t make a damn bit of difference to a body-shop man. He’s only interested in results. He’ll bang around the outside of the fender with a rubber mallet, tap it from the inside with a ball peen hammer, drill a hole, attach a rod, and try to pull it out or hit it with a rock. When it pops out, if it does, he sands it off, paints it and sends it out. If it doesn’t pop out, he replaces it. He is pragmatic, experienced, and confident of the essential flexibility of the material with which he works. Careful attention to detail and experimentation with each new dent bring consistent results.
I work on individual, self-created suffering with people who are responsible for continuing to create their own suffering.
Like the body shop man and the owner of the car, we concentrate on the condition of the machine and the results we want; we don’t have to figure out how the accident happened, and we judge the success or failure of our efforts by how close we’ve come to the results we want.
I work mostly with “garden variety” neurotics: average, basically healthy people who are anxious or depressed or both.
Often these general states of being — anxiety or depression — are accompanied by somatic discomforts and diseases such as skin rashes, ulcers, lower back pain, spastic colitis, allergies, high blood pressure, and insomnia; or by recurring problems in relationships, on the job, or in the family. When therapy works, the somatic ills disappear or decrease in intensity; anxiety and depression as steady states go away; and people take responsibility for making their relationships, professional lives, and creative powers work. Taking responsibility means a person no longer blames outside circumstances, or other people, or past events for the conditions of his own life.
Both the bodily ills and the steady unwanted emotional states go away because of a learning that takes place, and that learning always involves letting up on the demand that the world, including the demander, be other than what it is. Therapy is over when a person stops incessantly demanding that other people be different from what they are, forgives his or her parents and other begrudged former intimates, reclaims the power to make life work, and takes responsibility for doing so.
Psychotherapy doesn’t always work. My estimate is that about a third of the time the results are good to adequate, about a third of the clients make a few half-assed changes, and at least a third of the folks who see me don’t get any good out of therapy worth mentioning. Very few people suffer any damage in therapy since it is as hard to do damage as it is to help. I have seen a lot of failure and a lot of success. This book is an attempt to say what works, when it works. When therapy works, the result is an experience of well being, wholeness, being whole.
This book is about getting there.
Where Does Stress Come From?
People say modern life is stressful. Stress is not a characteristic of life or times, but of people. Stress does not come from the environment, it comes from the mind of the individual under stress. We make certain assumptions about the world, and we become attached to those assumptions. We suffer from thinking. We worked too hard to learn our ideas about the world to give them up. Like poker players who have already lost too much, we desperately double the bet in hopes of forcing fate to give us a good card. We think about things too much and too seriously and we suffer a great deal from trying to make the world match our thinking. We complain about how the world fails to live up to our expectations. We think about how life doesn’t live up to its billing, and how it should, and how it is rotten that it doesn’t, and how we should somehow fix it. Many people think themselves to death.
In order to survive, we have to apply what we have learned from experience. But it is equally true that in order to thrive — in order to stay alive — we have to overcome continually what we have previously learned. If we don’t somehow get rescued from our assumptions about life, they devour us. Rescue involves recognizing that the assumptions we so stubbornly cling to as truths are, in fact, decisions we have made about what “should be true” based on past experiences.
The Truth Changes
Because of being lost in our own minds, we fail to recognize that the truth changes. When the truth changes and we fail to recognize what has now become true, while holding on to the idea of what used to be true, we become liars committing suicide. If at 8:00 pm, I am mad at you and tell you about it and get quite worked up over it, and you get mad back and we talk about it, and we stay committed to the conversation and to the possibility of getting over our anger, there is a good chance that by 8:45 pm we can laugh and have a drink and not be angry anymore. It was true that I hated your guts at 8:00 pm. It was no longer true somewhere between 8:20 and 8:45. In contrast, people who live according to principles, like “I hated you then, and for good reason, so I still hate you now,” can’t get over things. This is reasonable but stupid. I have seen a lot of reasonably stupid people in my life.
Life goes on, and the truth changes; this just happens to be the way life is. What was once true is often no longer true just a little while later. Yesterday’s truth is today’s bullshit.
Even yesterday’s liberating insight is today’s jail of stale explanation.
Roles and rules are also thoughts, which, when grasped onto as principles, are hard for people to get over, or get beyond or let change. People choke the life out of themselves by tying themselves to a chosen “self image” — any “self image” whatsoever. Many adults remain in a perpetual adolescence, locked in the protective confinement of a limited set of roles and rules. This protection kills. According to a study conducted by The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, 53% of the people who die prior to age 65 do so “for reasons directly related to lifestyle.”1 Half of the people who die earlier than expected kill themselves by how they live. I say they kill themselves compensating for the starvation of being cut off from the nourishment of commonplace experience. They smoke, drink, take drugs, eat fat meat, watch TV, and don’t exercise. They work hard to survive and take care of themselves and their families. They try to have a good time and do the best they can.
They are constantly doing the best they can and not having it be good enough. They kill themselves with the same socially acceptable poisons all their friends use. They all were very much in touch with being alive at one time and then got more and more lost in their minds. They miss something they can’t quite get back to. They know a renewed love of life has something to do with escaping their own minds and the conditions of life their minds have set up, but they just can’t seem to do so. Moralism, a disease of living in the mind without relief, kills them. They die, trapped in some country song, doing the best they can and trying to have a little fun, but never doing well enough to suit anybody, particularly themselves, or having enough fun to make up for the strain.
Freedom from such a “life” is a psychological achievement. The freedom achieved by people who grow beyond the limitations of their childhood conditioning is freedom from their own minds. Freedom from one’s own mind is freedom to create. But in order to have some say in creating life, you must be willing to tell the truth. Telling the truth frees us from entrapment in the mind.
The alternative to freedom is to live out a program imposed by prefabricated internalized moral resolves. Living this way is a gradual suffocation, which makes us simultaneously more dead and more desperate. Creativity, using the mind rather than being used by the mind, is the cure for all stress disorders. Willingness to tell the truth in order to be free from your secretly assessing, secret keeping mind creates the possibility of using your mind to make a future as an artist rather than as a victim.
Bullshit is a highly technical term used throughout this book. I stole this term from Fritz Perls, the father of Gestalt Therapy. Abstraction from past experiences being mistaken for current experience itself is the major disorienting error of the normal garden-variety neurotic.
“I’ve been with you for 20 years-it should be obvious that I love you.” Evidence from the past doesn’t prove anything about current experience. We neurotics are people who make big generalizations to cover long periods of time. We say things like, “You always…” and “You never....” We attribute all of our power to circumstances and say things like “It makes me….” When we say these things we usually have no idea we are living in an imaginary world of our own creation. Fritz Perls actually made three technical distinctions for poisonous assignment of value: chickenshit, bullshit, and elephant shit. Chickenshit is a normal greeting that doesn’t mean what it says, as in “Hello, how are you?”“I’m fine, how are you?” Bullshit is normal conversation in which people are simply whiling away the time with meaningless abstractions and generalizations. Elephant shit is any discussion of Gestalt theory or of Radical Honesty.
I use words that have “shit” in them to give a pejorative evaluation of evaluations themselves. I want people at least to consider the possibility that their most valuable values may not be so valuable. I want people to question their own certainty.